Tag Archives: theology

Five years down, and I’m still Lost (SPOILER warning)

14 May

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“Ille qui nos omnes servabit.” — Richard Alpert speaking to Ilana next to the statue’s ruins.

Translation: “He who will save us all”

I’m just going to speak plainly on this one. What the Locke is going on??

That’s usually the response I have at the end of one of these season finales, but I honestly think this is the first one that threw me for a loop. Even the season 3 finale with the “game changing” ending was only surprising; the end of  tonight’s ‘The Incident’ was downright bewildering. Alot of us had guesses on John being in the coffin at the close of last year’s finale, but if anyone out there tonight figured out before the halfway mark that his body was in that box the “good guys” were carrying, give me your address and I’ll personally send you an autographed twinkie. It’s the first time the show really, truly blindsided me. Part of that is because it came at the end of such an engrossing and spirited two hours of television.

After a season that began with a compelling scenario but found plenty of opportunities to meander, last night’s finale really raised the stakes and expanded the scope. Going in to tonight there were a few questions I really expected to see answered–primarily what was in the temple, where the 815ers in 1977 went after their time in the Dharma Initiative, and who Jacob actually was. As far as I can surmise, the only one answered was the latter. The other two are obviously saved to next season. Even that answer only came in the form of meeting the actor, Mark Pelligrino(Dexter). And then there he is, sitting next to some new nemesis–Esau?–and waiting for The Black Rock to arrive on the island.

So, lets start there. Jacob and Esau; in the Bible they are the two sons of Isaac, and after the death of their father are forever embroiled in a conflict that comes as a result of the latter being decieved by the former into selling his birthright and being made subservient to his brother. Jacob, whose name in the Greek means “struggler with God”, eventually settled in the Land of Goshen, in Egypt. So, how closely does this Jacob relate to the biblical man? Clearly the struggle between the show’s Jacob and his Esau bear alot of similarities to the biblical relationship.

So, now there’s a central conflict between two characters we haven’t met before. How do they tie into the several divisions and conflicts that already exist in the show? The Dharma Initiative vs. The Hostiles. The Others vs. the Castaways. The Man of Science vs. The Man of Faith. The temporal vs. the eternal. The show provides a few more clues closely tied to the spiritual side of things.

Jacob visits Locke, Sun, Jin, Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley at various, integral times in their lives and provides little shoves that, I assume, are designed to ensure their arrival back on the island. He seemingly goes as far as bringing Locke back to life, but not to complete health. He’s playing with their lives in such a way that it calls their “destiny” into question. Romans 9:10(NASB) says:

10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” 13 Just as it is written, “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.”

This passage of scripture has often been cited to suggest the sovreign and pre-destined nature of God and of a universe ruled by God. Jacob and Esau are set on two different paths before their birth, and God’s attitude towards the two is determined before then as well. Later in the book, it is stated:

19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” 20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles.

So, where is Lost going in regards to fate and free will? Jacob in this instance seems to be the one doing the molding, shaping the vessels of Locke, Jack and the others so that move in certain directions, sometimes choosing honor and sometimes choosing dishonor. But can any of it be changed? Is Jacob a man, with special abilities, or is he something more? I’ve always rejected the notion that Lost would venture into the supernatural or mystical, but it appears now that perhaps it is headed in that direction.

Those passages above have been interpreted in many ways by many different scholars, and one of the arguments regarding the idea of a God who predetermines the fate of man centers around whether or not that God actually crafts the eventual path of the individual or merely has omniscience in the face of space and time and can observe what that individual will do and adjusts his attitude towards that one accordingly.

Without making this a theological throw-down, I think that idea is central to the eventual revelation and ultimate theme of LOST as a show. All of the 815ers were more than just physically lost at the start of the show, they were also adrift in their own individual ways. Now, the issues of destiny, purpose and individual importance rest at the center of the entire story. There are several forces that have no reconciliation-The DI and the Hostiles and Jacob and his dark counterpart. Are the castaways being molded as the vessells of reconciliation for the Island? Can time be changed? Which theory of Faraday’s is right? Or, do both apply at different times?

The second clue to the spiritual conflict in LOST is the book of Jacob’s choice in last night’s episode. He is reading a collection of short stories by Flannery O’Connor entitled Everything that Rises Must Converge. O’Connor was a southern author born in 1925 and dying in Georgia in 1964 from complications with Lupus. O’Connor, passing on when she was only 39, was a devout Catholic and battled illness all her life. As a result, her work, especially her short stories were filled with religious symbolism and divine intervention but they were done in a way that was disarming to most readers. O’Connor revealed spiritual and transforming truths to her characters in often violent and brutal ways.

Most stories combine elements that pop-up frequently in Lost: the protagonist(if there can be such a thing in an O’Connor story) encounters an outsider, often dark, mysterious and with questionable motives, and the mash-up that ensues proves transcendent for the former. Problem is, they usually die or lose their false leg or something equally dark. O’Connor saw the spiritual work of transforming the soul as a violent ripping from the secular, temporal world. That’s been going on in Lost since day one. An O’Connor story might end with a whole family slaughtered by a killer, but the moment that is supposed to catch us involves the potential redemption of the killer himself. In her world, potential innocents were guilty, and the guilty hardly ever beyond salvation. Remind you of anything?

So, those seem to be the spiritual stakes, but what about Locke? I didn’t see the imposter Locke thread coming, and in some ways it’s kind of cool but I was disappointed to think that the real Locke might actually be out of the story. I hope that’s not the case, as I’d hate to leave the real John at the moment of desperation, broken and strangled to death by Ben. As it happens, I don’t think we have seen the end of the real John Locke. Does this mean a Locke vs. Locke showdown next season? While it sounds kind of Highlander-ish, I’m game.

A few more thoughts before we go:

Someone needs to kill the character of Stuart. I was sure we’d see him go, but he’s still there. He reminds me of a feral Bob Balaban. This is not a good thing.

Juliette leaves the show, but she gets not one but two exits–one all Gandalf, the other all Bruce Willis ala Armageddon. Not too shabby Juliette, not too shabby at all. Your cold, sardonic stare will be missed.

Jack is directly in John’s shoes now. I like that he tells Richard “Don’t give up on him.” I hope Jack gets a chance to tell the real John about it.

Jack vs. Sawyer. This fight has been brewing since season one, but when it happens jack and sawyer are actually closer as people then they were previously. Neat. I really like the way the show has grown Sawyer. It’s great, subtle work transforming someone from callow to wise in the space of a few years. Whedon did it with the Spike character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the work here doesn’t rely upon magics or sudden turns of behavior, but on experience and the interaction of a community. Sawyer’s transformation is completely real.

Rose and Bernard. Perfectly sweet. Is Bernard turning into Jerry Garcia? If we never see this couple again, that’s just as well. That was a PERFECT coda for them. I think it was the strongest bit of the episode.

 Sobek. The repairer of evil that has been caused. Interesting. In fact, if you take a look at Egyptian mythology in general, in particular the Book of the Dead, you might be fascinated by the similarities with Lost.

Finally, my theory. The trapped ghost in the cabin is not Jacob, but Esau–held trapped by that ring of ash, and now there is a break in it. An actual loophole, as referred to by the characters twice. What he is exactly, I don’t know, but Esau imprints on Locke in that ep. We see a figure sitting in a chair, and it looks sort of like Locke or Christian Shepherd. My guess is that it was Locke, and it stole his form when his body returned to the island. Does this mean, that somehow Esau and the smoke monster are related, or the same entity? The very first episode involves Locke discussing the two sides of everything to Walt. Light and dark. Always two sides. We have our sides ladies and gentleman.

But seriously, the real Locke better come back.

Movie Review: S. Darko, take off that stupid bunny suit…

11 May

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S. Darko (2009), rated R, 104 minutes. Director: Chris Fisher, Screenwriter: Nathan Atkins, Cast: Daveigh Chase, Ed Westwick, Briana Evigan, Elizabeth Berkley, James Lafferty.

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Ahhh, sequels. A few weeks into Summer 2009 and this is the third one I’ve seen. Within the next two weeks we get another pair, with several more on the way all season long. I’d ask why, but I think we all already know the reason. The studios want a sense of assurity and comfort; audiences paid before, and rewarded the original, so naturally if you can recreate the same experience with familiar elements the sense of “risk” is lessened. For audiences, if you’ve loved a certain film or franchise, it’s likely that “good” or “necessary” won’t be factors that need to be met before you plop down cash to check out the next one; you simply have to see it. After all, where’s your loyalty? 

This goes double for sequels to cult classics. If you raved about it for years, you’re going to find a way to see what they did to “your” movie, even if you deny watching it later.  The folks behind S. Darko are counting on the original film’s fans to adopt this mindset. But don’t buy it(the movie or their crap). This latest ‘Donnie Darko Tale’ is a complete disaster; an amorphous blob of half-cooked ideas, appropriated imagery and mind-numbing boredom.

The original  Darko seemed to resonate most strongly with the college crowd; it’s characters were all teenagers and it’s time period was the 1980s and these elements created a familiar and nostalgic vibe for an audience in the waiting room of adult life. It was quirky, sarcastic, creepy, sometimes theological and a little existential.  The odd mix of a Philosophy 101 lecture and a sunday school lesson run through the filter of John Hughes and Sam Raimi was intoxicating. Good or bad, it was something new. Richard Kelly’s energizing little tale lived in the valley between It’s A Wonderful Life and 2001: A Space Odyssey and for a certain cross-section of people it was just as well loved.

You can’t really come up with a more self-contained film than the original Donnie Darko. Donnie’s experience is like the opposite of George Bailey’s. George gets to see what the world would have been like without him, and why his life was important. Donnie, a troubled teen who has started to wonder if there is something grander going on in the univserse than what he sees in his hometown of Middlesex Virginia, is given the opportunity to cheat his own death and see what the world would be like if he stayed around longer than he was meant to. For Donnie, it has the same affect as George: it makes him see his life has purpose and that he fits into a greater design.

The God of the universe gives this messed-up kid the chance to peek behind the curtain, to be  a hero, experience first love, reconnect with his family, and gain free will in the face of his own death. Donnie himself makes the choice that ends the film, and as he does he reflects that “there will be so much to look forward to.” Donnie hasn’t garnered a new lease on life as much as he has eschewed his fear of death and his uncertainty about the existence of God. At the end he hands his life over to the machinations of something bigger than himself and in the process saves his family, friends, and his entire town from destruction. Ultimately, it’s as if his adventure never happened at all, at least to those who knew him;his is a silent sacrifice.

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So, whats the complex plot at the heart of S Darko? Well, Samantha wanders off from Middlesex with her friend Corey (Briana Evigan) and they are on their way to L.A. when their car breaks down in the barren small town of Conejo Springs. Samantha petulantly walks around town, meets a few of the locals like Elizabeth  Berkley’s creepy christian lady and James Lafferty’s Iraq Jack, a messed-in-the-head war veteran who lives on the outskirts and may or may not be a killer. And then Sam decides that this isn’t her path, parts ways with Corey, and presumably goes back to her parents. The end.

As far as Sam is concerned, those are the events of the movie. More does happen, but honestly it’s nearly incomprehensible and it all seems designed to just mark off moments from the first movie.  And Sam, the titular character doesn’t really experience any of it because by the end everything has been re-set by someone else. Samantha Darko never interacts with the supernatural or time-travel elements of the story. The writers leave that to other, odder and less interesting characters. Not that Sam, as presented here, is very interesting. She is a vague concept and bears almost no relationship to the quirky little girl who was Donnie’s sister. sdarkochase

Meteorites fall from the sky, children go missing, Iraq Jack starts seeing a ghostly version of Sam who instructs him that the world is going to end and then we have that always helpful title card that informs us how many days are left. But then, one character makes a Donnie-like sacrifice half-way through the film and re-sets the timeline. The next time we see the title card it’s gone from 4 days left to 6. Why utilize a title card if it’s very presence is rendered obsolete? Easy, because the first Darko did it. That seems to be the only reason behind anything happening in this film. Why have one sacrificial event when we can have two? Why stop with a suspicious guru who makes kiddie porn when you can have one that might be actually killing children? Burned down someone’s house? Lets burn down a church this time! And don’t forget Frank the Bunny! We gotta get him, he’s the most recognizable image! Isn’t he like the Freddy or Jason of this franchise?

The movie’s biggest misstep, at least from a continuity perspective, is that adding in things like Frank and The Philsophy of Time Travel book don’t make any sense. Part of Frank’s appeal is that he is specific to Donnie and the events of Donnie’s journey. There is a mystery to Frank, revealed in the final third. In this movie Sam tells Iraq Jack about Frank and gives him a picture. Where did she get the picture? Why is Roberta Sparrow’s book in her backpack? If Donnie succeeded at all, then those items shouldn’t even BE in Sam’s posession and she should have no knowledge of them. Wasn’t there anyone working on this movie that actually saw the first film?

It may sound like I’m nitpicking, but thats not the case. At the technical level S Darko is accomplished enough but it doesn’t have anything of it’s own to be proud of. The odd, creepy score, the wormhole visual effects and that hulking bunny menace have just been lifted wholesale, and they don’t even make it over in the same shape. The Frank mask in this film has been hammered together in a garage and it looks like a fanmade costume of the original.

S. Darko isn’t a failure just because it’s an inferior sequel. Even divorced from the original, S Darko would be a turkey. It doesn’t make any kind of logical sense and it doesn’t have any central storyline tying together it’s events. Things happen at such a random clip that it eventually becomes disorienting. I was no longer certain what day it was, who the characters were to each other, whether the little boy was actually missing or not, and what exactly the ghostly Sam was trying to save everybody from.

S Darko is a dim bulb of a movie, a cut and paste hackjob of an original vision. No one has any idea why the first movie worked, and they labor here like color blind children trying to recreate the Mona Lisa with crayons and tracing paper. If all you require in a sequel is that it remind you fondly of the original, S Darko still fails. It only manages to evoke Donnie just enough that we become eager to turn it off and watch the original instead. And that, I’m in favor of. You just don’t need to suffer through this experience to do it.

S Darko: A Donnie Darko Tale releases on DVD and Bluray on May 12th, 2009.